For the last 9 months I’ve been in training to compete in the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe, a 140.6 mile swim, bike and run at 6000+ feet…and as if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, I’ve also been working on my latest business venture, Bonfaire, that officially launched earlier this year.
The combination of the two has caused me to reflect on some parallels between completing an Ironman and starting a new business.
I’ve heard said that “business is a marathon not a sprint”…
…to hell with that, I say it’s an IRONMAN not a marathon!
[contentheading]It Requires Endurance[/contentheading]
First, for us mere mortals, an Ironman triathlon can seem like a never-ending 14-17 hour test of endurance that no amount of training can really prepare you for. Likewise, running a business can seem like a never-ending, monumental test of endurance that no amount of education or work experience can really prepare you for.
Second, an Ironman requires mastery of multiple physical disciplines, at a high level of endurance: it’s a 2.4 mile swim; followed by a 112 mile bike; finishing with a 26.2 mile marathon. You’ll not get far if you’re a great runner, but can only swim 100 yards. Likewise, a startup requires mastery of multiple disciplines, you might be a great developer, but if you know jack about fundraising or the needs of your market you aren’t going to get very far.
[contentheading]The Game Changes[/contentheading]
Third, an Ironman involves distinct transitions, after you complete the swim you need to strip off your wetsuit, don your cycle shoes, grab your bike and get those legs moving in a completely different way from what worked for swimming. Once you’ve finished the bike you need to dump the cycle gear and get your trainers on, at this point your feet feel like bricks as your leg muscles go from peddling to running. That’s why they say a triathlon is really 5 disciplines not 3! Likewise, a business often goes through transitions where you can’t keep doing what you used to do and still to be successful, no point continuing to swim when it’s time to bike. Unfortunately, in business, transition points are much less obvious.
[contentheading]Time Is The Enemy[/contentheading]
Fourth, time is of the essence. For an Ironman, if the race starts at 7am, you have 2 hours 20 minutes to complete the swim and must be off the bike by 5:30pm and across the finish line by midnight…otherwise it’s game over. Likewise, when starting a business (particularly a venture-funded startup) you better have reached those critical milestones before you run out of cash or you won’t get to continue on to the next stage.
[contentheading]It’s Lonely Out There[/contentheading]
Admittedly, unlike an Ironman, a startup is a team sport, but like an Ironman, as CEO it can sure feel lonely.
For an Ironman surviving to cross the finish line is reward enough; for a startup, the reward is surviving long enough for a finish line to appear.
If you’d like to support my Ironman efforts and donate you can click the button below, the money I raise goes to help those with disabilities continue to lead even more active lives with the aid of prosthetics and adaptive devices that often aren’t covered by medical insurance.
Help me raise $6000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation